Recurring Donations

The art of timing: how fundraisers can maximize donations

Timing can be a crucial factor in fundraising efforts. A thoughtfully timed ask for donations can highly impact the likelihood of receiving contributions.

In the world of charities and nonprofits, timing can be a crucial factor in the success of fundraising efforts. A thoughtfully timed ask for donations can significantly impact the likelihood of receiving contributions. This article explores the importance of strategic timing in fundraising and highlights a groundbreaking study conducted by Katherine Milkman and Judd Kessler at the Wharton School, shedding light on the significant impact of timing on donor behavior.

Seasoned fundraisers and marketers have intuitively understood that timing is a significant factor in the success of a fundraising campaign. The holidays are a favorite time of year for asking for donations as many people generally feel more generous and are eyeing tax breaks.

In fact, about 30% of total giving in Canada happens from Giving Tuesday (a major donation day in November) to the end of December. December oftentimes accounts for about 5% of total donations, alone. For many charities, this end-of-the-year giving is crucial to sustaining their activities for the rest of the next year. 

So when is it a good time to ask for donations? 

According to a study from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the answer is to make your ask within 30 days of engagement. 

Katherine Milkman, professor of operations, information and decisions, and Judd Kessler, professor of business economics and public policy, carried out a field study on donations to a hospital system. The hospital system in the study sends out mailing asking former patients for donations in scheduled batches. Patients that come to the hospital right before a scheduled batch of mailing goes out will receive that mailing sooner. Patients that arrive at the hospital well before the scheduled batch will receive the mailing much later. This natural variance in delay set up an ideal study for Milkman and Kessler to study the effect of timing on donation asks. 

Their study found that after 30 days, there was a significant drop-off in donations. Moreover, there was a clear quantitative loss due to delays in solicitation: for every 30-day increment between the visit and the solicitation, the likelihood of receiving a donation decreased by approximately 30%. 

This finding was maintained even when accounting for different departments and demographics. The authors did find that patients who had the most severe cases, such as surgery, were more likely to give, but they still exhibited the same drop-off in giving after 30 days. 

One of the key takeaways from the study is the reciprocity between timing and the likelihood of donation. When nonprofits and charities promptly reach out to individuals who have recently engaged with their cause, a sense of reciprocity is established. The act of asking for a donation while the individual's experience is still fresh in their mind can evoke a stronger emotional response, leading to a higher probability of giving.

While the study emphasizes the significance of timely solicitations, it's important to note that timing alone is not sufficient. Thoughtful strategy and personalization are also crucial. Understanding your donors' preferences, interests, and motivations enables fundraisers to tailor their asks effectively. By combining the power of timing with a well-crafted message that resonates with the donor's experience, nonprofits can maximize their chances of securing donations.

Implementing Effective Timing Strategies

To optimize the timing of your solicitations, consider the following strategies:

  1. Create roundup programs: With roundup programs, your donors can link their cards in no time, and start giving a little bit with every purchase. Olive has found that charities can expect to receive about $30 in regular donations per month per donor! 

  2. Utilize data and technology: Leverage data analytics and donor management systems to track and identify key moments in the donor's journey that may indicate an ideal time for solicitation. Your ideal quantitative time may differ from others.

  3. Segment your donor base: Categorize donors based on their level of engagement and giving history. This segmentation allows for tailored communication and targeted solicitations.

  4. Automate communication workflows: Set up automated email campaigns triggered by specific events or time intervals, ensuring timely and relevant solicitations without manual effort.

  5. Implement reminder systems: People do forget. Send friendly reminders to potential donors who have not yet responded to previous solicitations, gently urging them to contribute.

  6. Maintain donor stewardship: Develop a comprehensive stewardship plan to cultivate relationships with donors throughout the year. Regular touch points will keep your cause fresh in their minds, increasing the effectiveness of future solicitations.

Although this study helps answer an important question for fundraisers, there are additional strategies that can help increase overall donations. Here at Olive, we help increase recurring donations through an all-in-one embedded finance platform that implements rounding programs, which can then be easily leveraged by matching and reward. To learn more about Olive Fundraising, click here.

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